Free school meals

From September 2014 all pupils in Reception, Year 1 & Year 2 in state-funded schools in England will be eligible for free school meals.

You will still need to submit an application though. This will guarantee that your child’s school receives all of the funding they are entitled to.

Where a parent or carer is in receipt of a qualifying benefit free school meals are available to:

  • pupils registered or receiving education at any school maintained by the authority (including a sixth form attached to a maintained school).
  • pupils attending maintained nurseries, as long as they are receiving education both before and after lunch.
  • from September 2014 to pupils enrolled at colleges of Further Education. You must apply directly to the college unless you are applying for Free School Meals at The Midland Studio College (Hinckley or Nuneaton) in which case you can apply using the link above.

Please note that for students over the age of 16 they must be aged between 16 and 18 on 31st August 2014 to be eligible for a free meal in the 2014 to 2015 academic year. Students who turn 19 during their study programme will remain eligible for a free meal until the end of the academic year in which they turn 19 or to the end of their study programme, whichever is sooner.

Free school meals are not available to children attending private nurseries.

Free school meals Frequently Asked Questions.

The online checking system provided by the Department of Education only confirms or denies your eligibility to claim free school meals: it does not give us any other information.

When your eligibility has been confirmed and your application processed, you will be sent an email confirming eligibility.

The school will also receive via email, notification of your child’s application. The online checking system will continuously check your eligibility status and inform you and the school your child attends of any changes.

All parents currently claiming for Free School Meals have been sent a letter informing them that they must reapply. This is a one-off process but you must make a fresh application by Monday 11th August 2014. This can be done by following the link above. If you do not reapply your child / children may not receive a meal when they return to school this September.

Please be aware that:

  • we are unable to backdate claims for free school meals to cover unpaid dinner money, or to refund dinner money paid prior to the date of a successful application.
  • although we no longer require free school meal claims to be renewed on an annual basis it remains the responsibility of the claimant not that of the school to ensure that we have the correct information at all times, i.e. a current home address, the names of all the children requiring free school meals and the schools they currently attend.

Universal Infant Free School Meals

From September 2014 all pupils in Reception, Year 1 & Year 2 in state-funded schools in England will be eligible for free school meals.

You will still need to submit an application though. This will guarantee that your child’s school receives all of the funding they are entitled to.

If your child currently receives free school meals. Warwickshire County Council will write to you in the summer with further details. If your child is due to start Reception in September you will receive further information from the school.

Qualifying for free school meals

The current criteria for claiming free school meals are:

    • family receives Income Support or Income-Based Job Seekers Allowance. Please note, Contribution-Based Job Seeker’s Allowance does not qualify for free school meals (unless you receive both Income-based & Contribution-based JSA on an equal basis)
    • family receives the Guarantee element of State Pension Credit.
    • family receives Child Tax Credit and has an annual income, as assessed by HMRC, not in excess of £16,190. Please note, families who are also entitled to Working Tax Credit do not qualify to claim free school meals regardless of income.
    • Support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
    • Employment and Support Allowance (Income Related). Please note, Contribution-Based E&SA does not qualify for free school meals (unless you receive both Income-based & Contribution-based ESA on an equal basis).

Temporary qualification for free school meals

You become eligible to claim free school meals if you receive a Working Tax Credit run-on: this is the payment someone may receive for a further four weeks after they stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit.

In order to qualify for free school meals after the four week period expires you will need to be in receipt of one of the other qualifying benefits listed above, and we will need to be able to verify that.

Unfortunately there is no 4 week ‘run-on’ of free school meals if you become entitled to Working Tax Credit because you have taken work: your entitlement to claim free school meals ends when your qualifying benefit ends.

Pupil Premium

When you successfully apply for free school meals the school will receive at least an extra £900 of government funding even if your child does not want the meal. This additional funding will be used to help children from lower income families do their very best at school. Please also be aware that if your family is registered for free school meals you may be eligible to claim other forms of assistance, for instance with home to school transport. If you would like more information about home to school transport contact Education Transport on 01926 412929.

Changes to your benefit entitlement

We do routine eligibility checks on all current claims throughout the year. Please contact us immediately if your benefit changes or ends, as it may mean that you no longer qualify to claim free school meals. It is equally important that you tell us if your partner is now claiming the family’s qualifying benefit for free school meals as we will need an application from them.

If you do not notify us that your family is no longer eligible for free school meals, you may be invoiced for the cost of any free meals taken that you were not entitled to.

Free school milk

Please contact your child’s school to find out whether this is available and how to request it.

Free school meals frequently asked questions


I receive Child Tax Credit and my partner is entitled to Working Tax Credit so can I claim free school meals for the children?

Unfortunately there is no free school meals eligibility if either partner is entitled to Working Tax Credit, regardless of income.

Further information regarding all criteria for claiming free school meals and application instructions can be found on our webpage: www.warwickshire.gov.uk/freeschoolmeals

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Although my family is entitled to Working Tax Credit our annual income is less than the upper threshold of £16,190. Why don’t we qualify?

The upper annual income threshold of £16,190 applies to families who receive Child Tax Credit but have no entitlement to Working Tax Credit.

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I have been told that I can claim free school meals if I lose my job, even though I am still receiving Working Tax Credit. Is that true?

Where a parent/carer is entitled to Working Tax Credit during a 4-week ‘run-on’ period immediately after their employment ends or they no longer qualify for Working Tax Credit, then they are eligible to claim free school meals for that 4-week period.

Unfortunately as we are unable to confirm eligibility using the Eligibility Checking Service you will need to submit a hard copy application form with a copy of your Tax Credit Decision Notice. If you do not have a Tax Credit Decision Notice please send a copy of your P45 or a letter stating what date your employment ended.

Once the 4-week temporary entitlement period has expired we will require proof that one of the other qualifying benefits listed on the webpage has been awarded.

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I claim Job Seekers Allowance but I have been told I don’t qualify for free school meals. Why?

If you are in receipt of Income-Based Job Seeker’s Allowance you are eligible to claim free school meals. Contribution-Based Job Seeker’s Allowance is not a qualifying benefit.

Please be aware that if you receive both Income-Based and Contribution-Based Job Seeker’s Allowance and you receive the same amount for both then you should qualify for free school meals. You should also qualify if you receive both but the Income-based amount is greater, but not if the contribution-based amount is greater.

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I receive Incapacity Benefit & Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Do I qualify for free school meals?

Neither Incapacity Benefit nor PIP are qualifying benefits for free school meals. Unfortunately unless you have been awarded one of the benefits listed on the webpage you will not be eligible to claim free school meals.

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I receive Employment & Support Allowance. Do I qualify for free school meals?

If you are in receipt of Employment & Support Allowance Income-Related you are eligible to claim free school meals. Contribution-Based Employment & Support Allowance is not a qualifying benefit.

Please be aware that if you receive both Income-Based and Contribution-Based Job Seeker’s Allowance and you receive the same amount for both then you should qualify for free school meals. You should also qualify if you receive both but the Income-based amount is greater, but not if the contribution-based amount is greater.

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Can I appeal against the free school meals eligibility policy?

Local authorities do not set the qualifying criteria for free school meals and we are unable to waive them. Any change to the criteria is a matter for central, not local government, so your Member of Parliament is the appropriate person to contact about this issue.

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Due to family circumstances my grandchild has come to live with me. Can I claim free school meals for her?

As the child’s carer you are eligible to claim free school meals for her if you are in receipt of one of the qualifying benefits. Either of her parents is also eligible to claim for free school meals for the child, even though she is currently residing with you, providing they claim a qualifying benefit.

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I am a foster carer – can I apply for free school meals for a child in my care?

Either a foster carer or the natural parent (whichever is in receipt of a qualifying benefit) may claim free school meals for the fostered child.

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My child attends a Warwickshire County Council school but we live outside of the county. Which local authority do I apply to for free school meals?

You need to apply to Warwickshire County Council for your child’s free school meals if he/she is attending a Warwickshire maintained school or nursery.


I claim Income Support and my child attends a private nursery school three mornings per week: can I claim free school meals?

Although you receive a qualifying benefit you are only eligible to claim free school meals for your child if he/she is attending a local authority maintained nursery school and receiving education both before and after the lunch break.

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My child attends a college of Further Education or Sixth Form College: am I able to claim free school meals for them?

Due to a recent change in legislation it may be possible to claim free school meals if you receive a qualifying benefit. Contact the college for further details.

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Do I need to provide proof of my benefit claim?

When you apply on-line or by telephone we are able to directly check your entitlement using the Eligibility Checking Service provided by the Department for Education and you will be advised whether or not your claim is successful at the time of application. You will only be asked to provide current documentary evidence of which benefit you receive if your eligibility cannot be confirmed in this way.

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Once I have applied and my claim has been accepted how soon will my child receive a free school meal?

We are committed to processing your application and advising the appropriate school about your child’s entitlement as quickly as possible so that there is no delay in free school meals starting. However due to varying school administration requirements it is not always possible to guarantee a same-day service.

All applications received by us should be processed within 3 working days and we will confirm your entitlement in writing.

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Will my child’s entitlement to free school meals be backdated to the date my benefit started so that I can claim a refund of the dinner money I’ve paid?

Department for Education policy states that a local authority has no legal responsibility to provide a free school meal to a child, who may be otherwise eligible, where no application has been made. Unfortunately we are unable to backdate entitlement to free school meals to cover unpaid school dinner money, or to refund dinner money paid prior to the date of a successful application.

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How will my child get his/her free school meal?

We will contact the school your child attends by telephone or secure e-mail when your application has been processed. Weekly updates are also sent to the schools.

Most secondary schools now use a Smartcard or biometric system to administer school meals, and if your child is entitled to a free school meal the allowance should be input into their account by the school in time for the lunch break each day. However as secondary schools are able to set their own catering budgets, and therefore their own FSM Allowance, the amount will vary from school to school. We suggest that you contact the school your child attends for further details.

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Who should I notify about any change of circumstances, school or to my address during the school year?

If you have applied on-line using our new system you can log back in using the details contained in your original acknowledgement email. You can then update your record. You can also contact the Customer Service Centre (01926 359189) with the details. Some schools will also be able to process your change of circumstance. Please be aware that is your responsibility (not that of the school) to notify us about any of these changes.

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What will happen if I do not notify you that I have started work?

It is particularly important that you tell us if you or a partner becomes entitled to Working Tax Credit. Unfortunately if you do not notify us about this, and a routine eligibility check during the year shows that you continued to claim school meals when no longer eligible to do so, then you may be asked to repay the cost of all meals taken free to which your children were not entitled.

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I want my child to have a balanced meal. What food will be provided as a free school meal?

The school your child attends will be able to advise you about their weekly lunch menu. You can also read more about Warwickshire’s commitment to healthy eating on the School Meals webpage at www.warwickshire.gov.uk/schoolmeals

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As I qualify for free school meals can I also apply for help with the cost of my child’s school uniform?

There is no requirement under the Education Act 2005 for local authorities to fund a uniform clothing allowance and this is not available from Warwickshire County Council. You may however wish to contact the school to see if they have an in-house scheme to assist with uniform costs.

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Somebody else’s child has come to live with me. Can I claim free school meals for her?

You may be a Private Foster carer and must notify the local authority as an assessment may be required and you would be entitled to advice and support. You can search for private fostering on this website; contact the local children team to you or the Private Foster Carer Lead for Warwickshire jennypackeer@warwickshire.gov.uk for further details. As the child’s carer you are eligible to claim free school meals for her if you are in receipt of one of the qualifying benefits. Either of her parents is also eligible to claim for free school meals for the child, even though she is currently residing with you, providing they claim a qualifying benefit.

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I receive equal based Employment & Support Allowance and/or Job Seekers Allowance. Do I qualify for free school meals?

Yes, you do. This is due to a recent change in legislation.

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My child is aged 19-25 and is subject to a Learning Difficulty Assessment (LDA) or Education Health and Care Plan (EHC Plan) or is an ESF students aged between 16 and 18 on 31 August 2014. Do they qualify for Free School Meals?

Yes – as long as they meet the required eligibility criteria. Contact the college or Learning Provider for more details.

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My child will be in Reception, Year 1 or Year 2 but my application has been unsuccessful.

If your child will be in Reception, Year 1 or Year 2 and your application has been unsuccessful – don’t worry, they will still receive a meal. The fact that you have submitted an application will help ensure the school receive all of the funding they are entitled to. You will be automatically notified if the status of your application changes.

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I have further questions regarding free school meals. Who can I speak to?

For more information about free school meals you can contact the Customer Service Centre:

Telephone: 01926 359189 (Mon – Fri: 8am – 8pm, Sat: 9am – 4pm)

OR

E-mail: freemeals@warwickshire.gov.uk

Other help

Benefit Helpline contact numbers:

HM Revenue & Customs

0845 3003900

Mon – Fri 8am to 8pm and Sat 8am to 4pm

For deaf or hard of hearing or speech impaired: 0845 3003909

JobCentre Plus

0800 0556688

Mon – Fri 8am – 8pm

For deaf or hard of hearing or speech impaired: 0800 0556688


Free school meals was last updated on July 30, 2014.